One of the biggest industries on the Central Coast, tourism, brought about $910m to the region in 2018, but visitor growth numbers still fall short of the NSW average.
Central Coast Council wants to boost that figure by $70m a year, and to that end, has released the Tourism Opportunity Plan (TOP) which will guide plans for the next five years to boost economic benefits and employment from the tourist industry.
Although visitation to the Coast has seen a three percent increase since 2013, the growth rates are below what is being achieved elsewhere in NSW, indicating the potential of a far greater capacity than is currently realised.
In 2017-18, NSW’s average annual visitor growth increased by five percent.
In comparison to other regions surrounding Sydney, such as the South Coast, Blue Mountains and the Hunter region, the Central Coast has the lowest market share increase of Sydney’s outbound market.
A council report said the major challenge to grow the tourism market was to change perceptions about what the Central Coast offered.
The core challenges, according to the report, were: an “embedded negative perception problem; monetisation, as many activities are low dollar spends, such as walking or the beach; depth and range of accommodation; lack of wow factor; low pride in place; poorly supported arts, culture and music scene; and, no nighttime economy”.
A marketing campaign is underway with a new comprehensive guide of activities, attractions, accommodation, restaurants and retail via a new website.
The TOP also identifies that the region needs a thread pulling all the region together in a “brand” for a personality which is woven into all marketing and communications to the three target groups of visitors, businesses and residents.
New investment is needed to create new reasons for people to visit, the report says.
This could be achieved through collaborative industry marketing, packaging of products such as accommodation and activities, and building strategic partnerships, for instance tapping into the NSW Food and Wine Tourism Strategy and maximising funding options through The Destination Sydney Surrounds North Destination Management Plan.
It’s the 1,000 Little Things We Could Do concept that makes it the responsibility of everyone to improve a visitor’s experience and improving the Coast’s reputation as a tourist destination, the report says.
These could be things such as fostering service excellence, keeping our streets and parks clean and tidy, extended retail hours, initiatives to support live music and artists, revitalising signage or shop fronts, and providing better directions to attractions.
Council’s plan for the long term viability and sustainability of tourism for the Central Coast will soon be on public exhibition and the community is encouraged to review the plan and have their say and input into tourism.
Some of the short term projects identified in the plan include: a food and beverage exploration trail; an art and sculpture trail; a twilight economy; Heritage tourism; educational eco hub and indigenous experience; and, nature based attractions and experiences, such as bike paths, walkways, trails and pathway infrastructure highlighting arts, culture, heritage.
Longer term and more ambitious projects include a floating leisure precinct at Tuggerah Lake and a soft adventure cluster with simulated wave park, national surfing reserve and mountain bike trails.
Council is currently undertaking a Mountain Bike Feasibility Study and investigations into appropriate locations for a major wave park on council owned land proved fruitless, but Council will explore other options through private enterprise to establish a wave or water park on the Central Coast.
Meanwhile, Council has decided to follow a lead from Tasmania and will look into other tourism and recreation opportunities on the Coast’s extensive waterways through canoeing and kayaking.
Tasmania visitor survey data in September, 2017, showed an increase of 73 percent of visitors to the state in canoeing or kayaking from the previous year, and in December, 2018, a 191km kayak trail was launched as the first of its kind in Australia.
Council will receive a report outlining these opportunities by the end of September.
Meeting, June 24
Central Coast Council
Agenda Item 4.6
Tourism Opportunity Plan